Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Rays trade Hellickson to D-backs for two prospects

Tampa Bay acquires infielder Velazquez, outfielder Williams in exchange for right-hander
MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays pulled the trigger on their second trade of the young offseason Friday night when they sent right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to the D-backs for a pair of young prospects.

Tampa Bay acquired infielder Andrew Velazquez and outfielder Justin Williams.

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays pulled the trigger on their second trade of the young offseason Friday night when they sent right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to the D-backs for a pair of young prospects.

Tampa Bay acquired infielder Andrew Velazquez and outfielder Justin Williams.

After Hellickson enjoyed a solid start to his Major League career that saw him win American League Rookie of the Year Award honors in 2011, he has struggled recently.

Prospects acquired by Rays
Andrew Velazquez, INF: Velazquez jumped on the radar when he set a Minor League record in 2014, reaching base in 74 consecutive games during his first taste of full-season ball. The high-energy middle infielder hails from Fordham Prep in New York City, and he started to put things together this past season. Velazquez's improved approach at the plate was key to his success this past season. He's a much more disciplined hitter, though he still strikes out at a fairly high rate. Velazquez has solid bat speed and can spray line drives to all fields, though he's never going to be a big power guy. His best tool is his speed, which he put to better use with his improved on-base skills, stealing 50 bases in '14. An outfielder in high school, Velazquez is still getting used to his surroundings in the middle infield, though he has the tools, range and arm to profile well there.
Justin Williams, OF: When the D-backs took Williams in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, he was one of the youngest players in the class. He's been moved cautiously as a result, holding his own at every level. Williams has tremendous raw power, though he's still learning how to tap into it. He has a big, physical frame, but his approach at the plate still needs to be refined. Williams is capable of showing that power to all fields and, in time, he should be able to hit the ball out to any part of a ballpark. A middle infielder in high school, he was moved to the outfield immediately upon becoming a pro, seeing most of his time in left field, his likely home long term.
Top 20 Prospects: Rays | D-backs
-- Jonathan Mayo

The right-hander went from a 13-10 mark with a 2.95 ERA in 29 starts during his rookie season to 12-10 and a 5.17 mark in 2013. Much of those struggles could be attributed to a right elbow problem Hellickson corrected prior to the this past season, when "loose bodies" were extracted.

Hellickson went on to post a 1-5 mark with a 4.52 ERA in 13 starts. The 27-year-old did not make his season debut until July 8, striking out 54 and walking 21 in 63 2/3 innings.

"It's been kind of up and down," said Hellickson of his 2014 season. "One game, I feel really good. The next game, I don't really have much, just kind of very inconsistent. That's a good word for it. For me, I pride myself on being very consistent -- going out there every five days and giving us a chance. I feel like I'm doing that every other start right now."

Hellickson is arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason. He made $3.625 million his first time through and will get a raise this year regardless of his performance. With eight potential candidates for spots in the rotation, the Rays obviously felt they could afford to trade Hellickson.

Going forward, Tampa Bay's starting rotation now includes: Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Alex Colome, Nathan Karns, and Matt Moore (who won't return from Tommy John surgery until midseason).

Meanwhile, the Rays landed a pair of quality prospects in the deal, but it could take a while for each to mature.

Williams was ranked as MLB.com's No. 14 prospect for the D-backs. He hit .351/.403/.467 this year while splitting time at rookie-level Missoula and Class A South Bend. The 19-year-old was selected in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Velazquez, 20, gained attention this past season when he reached base safely in 74 straight games from April 22-July 16. Ranked as the D-backs' No. 12 prospect by MLB.com, Velazquez hit .290/.367/.428 with 50 stolen bases for South Bend in 2014.

Shortstop is an area of strength in Arizona's system, with Chris Owings, Cliff Pennington, Didi Gregorius and Nick Ahmed all seeing time at the position this year in the big leagues.

"I didn't really think about the shortstop situation, because [Velazquez is] so far away," D-backs general manager Dave Stewart said. "He played low-A ball last year. He's probably three, four years away, and Williams is probably four, five years away, and I looked at it more that way than the fact that I was trading from a position of strength."

Friday's trade marked the second deal this offseason for the Rays, who sent left-hander Cesar Ramos to the Angels for Minor League right-hander Mark Sappington on Nov. 5.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tampa Bay Rays, Jeremy Hellickson, Justin Williams